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Happy Kwanzaa!

By Olivia Leigh in Miscellaneous on Dec 27, 2006 8:49PM

While we like to think of ourselves as culturally aware, we have to admit that we are pretty unaware when it comes to Kwanzaa. Aside from seeing a small exhibit about the holiday at the DuSable Museum of African-American History, and hearing a woman at the post office wishing a clerk a “Happy Kwanzaa!” (the first we’d ever heard it said, mind you), our encounters with the celebration have been few and far between.

2006_12_kwanzaa.jpgIn case you know as little about it as we did, educate yourself:
Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration that begins the day after Christmas, was created 40 years ago by Dr. Maulana Karenga to “introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community”.

Each day of the week is devoted to one of the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles, which include: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith)

While we’d always been under the impression that one celebrates Christmas or Chunukah or Kwanzaa, as it’s not a religious holiday, many families can apparently bring out the Christmas tree, as well as the traditional African decorations. However, the Official Kwanzaa Web site notes that the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice should not be mixed with any other culture. So, perhaps you’d better be sure that Christmas tree is tucked away safely in the closet before the December 26, before you begin the unique self-reflection and cultural recognition that is unique for many of its participants.

Here in Chicago Malcom X College (1900 W. Van Buren), where the mishumaa saba, or seven candles that are used to represent the Nguzo Saba, was lit on Sunday, will be celebrating the holiday with free events every day this week.

After learning a bit more about it, we will give our valuable stamp of approval to Kwanzaa. Meaningful celebrations that includes parties with occassionaly 50-plus friends and family always get high marks in our book.